Dallas Forgotten and the Duty to Remember

Yesterday was November 22. According to the vast majority of the news and entertainment media, it was no different from any other day, apparently. In all likelihood, the same was true of most Americans. “Oh, yeah…November 22! Better buy that turkey!”

November 22 is not like any other day in America, however. It is the date in 1963 that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 46 years old and the 35th President of the United States of America, was assassinated on the streets of Dallas.

Apart from national holidays, there are not an overwhelming number of calendar boxes that citizens of the United States should pause and think about every year. July 4. September 11. December 7, when America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor. June 6, D-Day. We can argue about others, but there should be no argument about November 22. It was a sudden, unexpected tragedy that scarred a generation, and it changed the course of  national and world history in many ways.

Year after year, Americans know less and less about their own country. This makes us incompetent in our civic duties, infantile in our understanding of America’s role in the world, stupid and apathetic on election day, and patsies for our supposed elected officials, who can tell us lies about our country’s mission and heritage as we stand nodding like cows. Most of all, it makes us disrespectful of the brave and brilliant men and women who built, sustained and defined the United States. College graduates go on “The Jay Leno Show” and shamelessly identify the faces on Mount Rushmore as the Marx Brothers or the Beatles, and giggle about it as Jay rolls his eyes. This is becoming the standard level of American appreciation of the nation’s past.

We have a duty to remember America’s accomplishments, triumphs, moments of crisis, leaders and fallen heroes. It is not overly burdensome to expect our newspapers to include a brief editorial, feature or column commemorating defining moments in our history, as part of their own duty to keep the nation inspired and aware. We should expect the same of the major news networks, cable channels, websites and blogs. Yesterday, they failed miserably. A Google news search listed fewer than 90 mentions of JFK’s death yesterday. There were ten times as many stories about  Miley’s Cyrus’s tour bus accident, an event that will not even be an important footnote in the history of November 2009, much less our national story. Lindsay Lohan, a sad, unemployed pop celebrity in career free fall, who has added nothing positive to the culture in her twenty-four years and who did nothing noteworthy at all this week, still received more mention in the news media than the tragedy in Dallas, and the death of the inspiring leader who called upon the nation to aim for the stars, both literally and figuratively.

And the result of our warped priorities? On one website, a student queried his peers about the most important moments in U.S. history. A typical response came from “Aurelio 226,” who answered, “Umm well 9/11 and maybe when Obama was victorious mehh” For those of you who don’t talk to a lot of teenagers, Meh, which he even misspelled, is essentially a verbal shrug. A shrug accurately describes our culture’s attitude toward the ideas, inspirations, concepts, visions, people and events that shaped us. This is disrespectful to our past. This is dangerous to our future.

We have a duty to remember.

JFK  deserves better than “Meh.”

7 thoughts on “Dallas Forgotten and the Duty to Remember

  1. And Harvard graduates can’t place the Civil War in the right century much less name the actual years of this pivotal period in our history? Is this part of the reason we continue to elect total boobs to Congress? I know there were nefarious reasons for Southern states to give tests to potential voters before they were allowed to register, but I’m beginning to think that in fact a representative democracy, which depends completely on an INFORMED ELECTORATE, needs to do something to ensure that it in fact has one. If the news media can’t help, and the schools can’t, where can we turn? Voters now vote for whomever is most glib, promises the coolest stuff, or the last charlatan they meet on their way to the voting booth. Beginning to think we need a philosopher king.

  2. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Adams? Weren’t those all a bunch of old, white slave owners? Surely anything they or their contemporaries had to say can be safely ignored. Meh, we don’t have to worry about the British invading anymore.

    (Yes, I hear too many younger individuals defend their ignorance of history with what I can only assume they must think is a hip sort of modern enlightenment. Or maybe I’m just feeling old and bitter.)

      • Hopefully Adams and Franklin can forgive my feelings of old bitterness. In all seriousness, it does seem that such sweeping generalizations are too often made of the US founders. The old, white slave holder dismissal especially annoys me. Looking at how they’re at times represented and misrepresented, I’m certain they and their contemporaries would find much to be annoyed about today.

        • And they’d be even older and more bitter than you! The slave-holding stuff bothers me as well. What was a cultural norm cannot be fairly judged by modern knowledge and hindsight. Besides, Washington showed the capacity for growth, and ultimately became convinced that slavery was wrong. Jefferson is harder to defend, being ahead of his time regarding slavery but unwilling to act on it himself.

  3. Pearl Harbor Day happened on December 7, 1941. Sixty-eight years later we still remember Pearl Harbor Day and the events of December 7, 1941. My husband’s father fought in World War II, which inspired my husband to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam. I found your nice website after searching Google Blog so now i bookmarked! – Jannet

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